home inspection tips for buyers

If you are reading this, you may be looking for some home inspection tips for buyers. You may also have some questions about what a home inspector does.  A home inspector is sometimes confused with a real estate appraiser so to clarify, an inspector determines the condition of a structure, whereas an appraiser determines the value of a property.

Definition of a home inspection:

A home inspection is a general overall, non-invasive examination of the current condition of a property often performed during a real estate transaction. Most often it is the buyer who purchases the service.  Much like your general practitioner, good home inspectors have the training and certifications to perform such inspections. If conditions warrant, deficiencies or repairs may be referred out to a specialist. (i.e. a plumber, electrician, a roofer, etc.)

What to expect:

How long does a home inspection take? The amount of time that a home inspection requires is based on the square footage of the home. A 1,000 sq ft condo may take 1 to 1 ½ hrs. A 2,500 sq ft, 4 bedroom, 2 ½ bath single family home might take 2 ½ to 3 hours to complete. For larger scale homes of 4,000 to 5,000 sq ft the inspection may take 3 to 5 hours. Larger homes may have multiple HVAC or electric panels and other considerations such as in-law suites, garages, and outbuildings which lengthens the time to inspect the property. Costs can vary widely across the country. Maryland home inspectors typically charge $295 – $595 but charges can go upwards of $995 or more and may be higher based on the size of the property and additional services that may be added onto the inspection. The hours on-site for the inspection do not account for the time that it takes to compile the report. An inspector may also spend 1 to 3 additional hours preparing the inspection report.

Additional ancillary services such as mold and radon testing, lead based paint testing and asbestos testing, specialized deck inspections, pest inspections, well yields, septic inspections and water quality testing are other services that may be requested by the buyer. You should note that additional specialized training and certifications are also recommended for these service providers.

What’s next:

Once the inspection is completed, within 24-48 hours the inspector prepares a written report of their findings. The client and their agent then use the knowledge gained from the inspection to make informed decisions about their pending real estate purchase. While some handwritten reports are still around these days, most home inspectors use software programs on their mobile phones and digital photography to assemble a non-biased, third party report for the buyer.

The home inspection is an evaluation the condition of the home at the time of inspection but does not guarantee future condition or efficiency of systems or components. Given the typical service life of many components in a house, the report may document the age and expected service life left of those components.

What you should look for:

Not all states or municipalities regulate home inspectors but a good, qualified home inspector should have been trained by a qualified organization and have certifications from ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors), or InterNACHI (International Association of Certified Home Inspectors). They should also be licensed and insured. A good inspector will spend time with the potential buyer posing observations in a non-threatening factual way. Saying things like “Well that’s shot” or “What an ugly paint color” are not appropriate. Checking out on-line reviews are a great way to get insight into the inspector’s way of interacting with the client. Your real estate agent is also an excellent resource for referrals. Another important factor to consider is how long the inspection company has been in business. Many new home inspection companies have popped up over the past few years and experience is extremely important when having your home evaluated.

The inspector should take the time to explain the location of the important components of the house such as the location of the water main, the main breaker in the electric panel, and discuss the findings of the roof inspection.

The purpose of a home inspection is to assemble a non-biased, third party report for the buyer and buyer’s agent. It should also be noted that a home inspection is not a code inspection. An inspector’s function is to identify Structural and Mechanical defects. Home inspectors are not code enforcement officers but do look for safety concerns and document them in the report.

So please keep all these things in mind as you determine who is going to be inspecting your new home. If you have any other concerns regarding home inspection tips for buyers, don’t hesitate to give us a call!


Highland Home Inspections was established in 1989 by Rick Belliveau and performs full-service home inspections in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Calvert County, Carroll County, Charles County, Howard County, Frederick County Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. And NOW in Ocean City, MD and Fenwick Island, DE.